Cross to face van Gerwen in Play-Offs

Rob Cross makes his way to the stage in Aberdeen last night. Picture courtesy Steve Welsh/PDC
Rob Cross makes his way to the stage in Aberdeen last night. Picture courtesy Steve Welsh/PDC

Darts star Rob Cross will face Michael van Gerwen in the Unibet Premier League Play-Offs after drawing his last match of the league phase last night (Thursday).

The St Leonards-based world champion drew 6-6 with Simon Whitlock in Aberdeen and dropped a place to fourth in the table below Gary Anderson, who beat van Gerwen 7-5.

Cross will therefore play league leader van Gerwen and Anderson will take on second-placed Michael Smith in the Play-Offs at The 02 in London next Thursday, with the winners to face each other for the title later in the evening.

World number three Cross hit five 180s and a ton-plus checkout, but by his own admission was well below his best against Australian thrower Whitlock. Cross led 2-0 and 4-2, but then trailed 6-5 before taking the final leg to earn a point.

Cross hit a superb 112 outshot for a 15-darter to break throw in the opening leg and landed his first 180 on his way to another 15-darter in the second. Cross hit his second 180 in leg three, but after both men missed darts at a double, Whitlock got his opening leg on the board.

Although Whitlock produced his first 180 in leg four, Cross finished 52 in two darts to lead 3-1. Whitlock landed another 180 on his way to a 14-darter in the next only for Cross to hit a 180 and 168 en route to a 13-darter in leg six.

Rob Cross and Simon Whitlock in conversation after their 6-6 draw. Picture courtesy Steve Welsh/PDC

Rob Cross and Simon Whitlock in conversation after their 6-6 draw. Picture courtesy Steve Welsh/PDC

In a key moment, Cross missed four darts at a double to lead 5-2 and soon afterwards it was 4-4 as Whitlock broke back on double 17. Cross checked out 90 to break throw in leg nine, but after both men hit their fourth 180s in the next, Whitlock finished 32 with two double 8s to level at 5-5.

Cross delivered his fifth 180 in leg 11, but more missed doubles allowed Whitlock to hold and take the lead for the first time in the match. Cross pinned 94 in two darts in the final leg, though, to at least avoid defeat.

In his post-match interview with Sky Sports, Cross said: “I didn’t play well enough. Simon didn’t play too well. It was one of those, I suppose it happens.

“I’m not too bothered who I play (in the Play-Offs). If you’re going to win, you need to beat the best anyway. I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be great.”

This has been Cross’s first taste of the Premier League, a 16-week roadshow competition involving 10 of the sport’s top players at big arenas around the UK, Ireland, Holland and Germany.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Cross added. “Have I played my best darts? Definitely not. It’s been a little bit of a life-change, but I think it’s gone well on the whole.”

Unibet Premier League standings (all played 16 matches): 1st Michael van Gerwen 23pts (+43 leg difference), 2nd Michael Smith 20 (+24), 3rd Gary Anderson 19 (+15), 4th Rob Cross 19 (+5), 5th Daryl Gurney 16 (+1), 6th Raymond van Barneveld 16 (-8), 7th Peter Wright 14 (-20), 8th Simon Whitlock 13 (-18). Mensur Suljovic and Gerwyn Price eliminated after week nine.

Benefit from an ongoing discount on your Observer by joining our voucher membership scheme. Once you’ve subscribed, we’ll send you dated vouchers which can be exchanged for your paper at any news outlet. To save money on your Observer, simply click here (www.localsubsplus.co.uk)